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Higher Learning: SLU's 1818 Program Gives High School Students a Head Start

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Clayton Berry
Assistant Vice President Marcom-University Communications

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When Abby Unverferth (A&S ’12) enrolled at SLU in 2008, she was assigned to live on the freshman floor of Marguerite Hall, though she hardly was a first-year student. The then-18-year-old from Red Bud, Illinois, had 31 college credits under her belt, vaulting her to sophomore status.

Illustration of a person looking at a 1818 hot air balloon

Illustration by Traci Daberko

By taking several core and general education courses at Gibault Catholic High School through SLU’s 1818 Advanced College Credit Program, Unverferth had a leg up on her peers.

“Because I’d done so much of the basic coursework ahead of time, I had the luxury of taking things a little slower than other students,” said Unverferth, who entered SLU as a still-deciding/undeclared student. “Even though I didn’t know anything about the subject, I took a course in art history my freshman year. It turned out I loved it and chose it as one of my majors.”

Making the Grade

Established in 1959, SLU’s 1818 Advanced College Credit Program is one of the oldest dual college credit programs in the country. It was the first west of the Mississippi.
The program allows high school students to get both high school and college credit by taking college-level courses taught by specially qualified high school teachers. The tuition rate for dual credit courses is significantly reduced — $65 a credit hour for high school students versus $1,100 for SLU students.

SLU started the 1818 program by partnering with two local Catholic high schools — St. Louis University High School and the now-closed Xavier High School — to promote academic excellence, improve college access and encourage students to matriculate at SLU. The program grew in the 1970s to include other metro-area high schools, both public and private.

“We saw the program as an opportunity not only to connect with Catholic high schools but to help change the culture of education in St. Louis by creating access for all,” DeLaria said.

In the 1980s, SLU became one of the first universities in the country and the only Jesuit university at the time to offer dual credit courses in high schools nationwide. The 1818 program now has partnerships with more than 100 schools in six states (Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Hawaii). A majority of SLU’s 1818 partners remain Catholic high schools.

SLU’s dual credit course selections have quadrupled in the last decade. SLU offers nearly 70 different dual credit courses in 35 disciplines including history, science, math, foreign languages, women’s studies and political science. High school juniors and seniors can take up to 18 dual credit hours per semester.

Dual credit students are invited to luncheons with department deans, have access to SLU’s network of libraries, are eligible for 1818 scholarships and get preferential enrollment status over other incoming freshmen. As part of a pilot program, dual credit high school students have been invited to campus for a foreign language immersion day.

“We do everything we can to make 1818 students feel connected to SLU,” DeLaria said. “Even if they don’t choose to attend SLU, I tell students they’ll always be Billikens.”

Of the more than 6,000 high school students who participate in the 1818 program each year, approximately 350 enroll at SLU.

Prep School

DeLaria said dual credit not only helps students get a head start in college and save money, it exposes them to the rigors of college learning.

“There are no makeup exams, no credit for late assignments,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen in a college course, it doesn’t happen in our dual credit course. Students learn to do research using the University’s database and submit papers that are college-level work. We’ve created a culture around excellence and are indoctrinating students with the SLU approach to learning.”

High school teachers get 1818 training.

Associate professor of chemistry Dr. Paul Jelliss (fifth from right) facilitates a conversation among teachers receiving 1818 training on SLU's campus. Photo by Kevin Lowder

More than 100 colleges and universities in 50 states accept 1818 dual college credits.
“The number of colleges and universities that accept 1818 credits speaks to how widely respected SLU is as an academic institution,” DeLaria said. “Educators recognize we’re offering students an authentic and legitimate college education.”

DeLaria said professors at colleges and universities report that 1818 students are their top performers, with GPAs of 3.5 or higher. 1818 students also tend to be more involved in campus activities, including student government and service work.

In addition, a growing number of studies show that dual credit students are more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, earn higher grades than peers who haven’t taken dual credit classes and are more likely to earn a degree.

Mario Patiño, a high school biology teacher at a charter school on the island of Hawaii, can attest to this. He became an 1818 adjunct instructor four years ago while teaching at a private school. Patiño said 100 percent of his 1818 students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities.

“Even though the 1818 courses are tough and students struggle at times, their confidence grows,” he said. “Students learn to become independent, self-directed thinkers. They’re ready for college and are motivated to achieve.”

High Standards

Patiño and other 1818 adjunct instructors are required to meet the same criteria SLU uses to hire the University’s on-campus adjunct instructors.

1818 instructors participate in SLU workshops and professional development courses to maintain their credentials, and they are offered stipends to pursue advanced degrees at SLU. High schools are awarded grants to encourage their teachers to train as 1818 instructors.

Every summer, SLU hosts a symposium for its more than 500 adjunct instructors to discuss academic trends and program protocols. Patiño wakes at 4 a.m. in Hawaii to participate in the dialogue online.

Each high school instructor has access to an appointed SLU faculty member as a resource. These liaisons offer guidance, answer questions and give feedback for teaching SLU courses. Liaisons also make annual visits to the high school classrooms and share their observations with the adjunct instructors.

Patiño said what he has learned from SLU professors and his colleagues has given him the confidence to teach community college courses.

“What we’re doing for high school students and their teachers is phenomenal,” DeLaria said. “If you’re looking for an example of how SLU is living its mission and being a part of the community, the 1818 program is it.”

The community went global this fall. The 1818 Advanced College Credit Program has established its first international partnership with a high school in China.

By the Numbers

6,312 students who took 1818 dual credit courses in 2016

45,000 dual credits earned in 2016

6 states with 1818 partner schools (more than 100 schools, total)

10 new partner schools in 2017

50 new adjunct instructors in 2017 (more than 500 instructors, total)

95 percent of alumni report their 1818 course was as challenging, if not more challenging, than their university studies

— By Marie Dilg